Robotic Communication Bridge for Children With Autism

About: The BCAMRL is a Mechatronics Research Lab, founded in 2014 on the campus of Bergen County Academies, a magnet high school within the Bergen County Technical School District. Students create innovations base...

Abstract

Every 1 in 68 children in the United States currently has autism. Although symptoms vary by child, three of the core symptoms of autism include social deficits, language impairment, and repetitive behavior. A large portion of autistic children have limited speaking skills, are self absorbed or hidden in their own world, and tend to avoid communication. These kids usually have repetitive behaviors and uneven language development. Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) end up never developing oral speech and language skills, and communicate with gestures instead. This robot is the solution. It will work to improve communication development in these children by embedding artificial intelligence technologies under a neutrally designed plush exterior. This will be a way for autistic kids to communicate basic needs with the press of a button. It will combine vocal playback of basic needs such as “I’m hungry” or “I need to go to the bathroom” with other sensory features, such as the neopixel eyes and hands, that appeal to the child’s more developed senses. Repetitive language is not as affected as expressive language, meaning, lots of kids with autism can understand what they are being told, but have trouble replying, which impairs one of the two sides necessary for successful communication. For autistic children who are averse to speaking out loud, this robot can be communicated through to project basic needs, and work towards developing communication skills with repetition in the child as they get more comfortable with what they need to say.

Parts List

  • White felt fabric (from Joann Fabric and Craft Store)
  • Stuffing/filler (Joann Fabric and Craft Store)
  • Battery pack
  • Arduino Uno Ver 3
  • H-Bridge/Motor Shield (ADAFruit)
  • Neopixels (ADAFruit) [Pack of 4]
  • 4 On/Off Micro Switches (Push Button)
  • PCB boards
  • MP4 Playback Shield (ADAFruit)
  • Spool of Flat Wire
  • USB Cable (for charging)
  • Velcro Strip

Instructions

1. Trace design on cardboard and cut it out to make a template.

2. Trace template onto the top piece of your two pieces of fabric. Pin the pieces together so that you can easily cut out both halves at once.

3. Cut out fabric.

4. Sew the two halves together, leaving it open across the bottom. Turn the doll inside out.

5. Solder push button switches to PCB boards.

6. Solder stripped wire ends to the leads of the switches.

7. Trace the outline and design of the doll onto the surface of the fabric with a pencil. Go over it in Sharpie.

8. Solder wires to neopixel ports.

9. Solder wires of all of the other components to the motor shield.

10. Glue the electronics into doll.

11. Plug in the battery pack into the motor shield when you are ready to use it. Plug in the USB cable, which you can plug into a computer or laptop for charging. The file for the code is attached - if you use it without any alterations it will have the buttons say "I'm hungry", "I'm thirsty", "I need to go to the bathroom", and "Mom".

11. Stuff doll with stuffing/filler of choice.

12. Attach velcro strip to bottom to open and close doll with ease.

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Step 1: Supporting Documentation

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